John Mitchell and his wife founded Montalto just over 20 years ago. Their stunning estate is home to vineyards, olive groves, orchard, kitchen gardens, beehives, wetlands and a famed, contemporary sculpture trail.
In this exclusive interview with Wine Paths, he tells us about Montalto’s wine experiences, European travel memories and more…
The Sculpture Trail is certainly, together with your wines, a highlight of every visit to the Montalto Estate -with its permanent collection beautifully displayed throughout the property and amongst the wetlands and vines, alongside the works of the finalists of the annual Montalto Sculpture Prize Exhibition.
Can you tell us more about this “Wine & Art” collaboration? We understand the Montalto Sculpture Prize was designed to encourage artistic pursuit in a public forum. How did it come to be?
As a family we are inspired by passion and endeavour in many forms: nurturing vines to allow the production of beautiful fruit; working with the bunches to craft a wine reflective of the season; tending productive gardens to produce vegetables, herbs and fruits that allow passionate chefs to work their magic.
Introducing sculptural art in the natural canvas of our estate landscape was a natural extension. Inviting sculptors to tell their stories and share their skills brings another layer of passion and energy to the estate.
Like our family, at the end of the day visitors can feel rewarded from time shared in an environment that reflects a passion for wine, food and art in one beautiful space.
15 years on, we are the longest-running annual sculpture prize in Victoria. We have seeded visitors interest in sculpture on their own properties through acquisition and we are an active and respected member of the Australian sculpture community.
The Sculpture Trail at Montalto Estate
Your winery offers and extraordinary range of exclusive activities -with something to cater for everyone’s preferences: from private picnics and “behind the scenes” winery tours to relaxed Australian architecture; from a sculpture garden and wetlands to an olive grove and acclaimed restaurant inspired by the traditional parrillas of Argentina.
How would you describe the “Montalto Experience” to travelers planning to visit your Victoria wine estate?
One of my great delights is to hear visitors introducing their friends to the estate. As previous visitors they have discovered that this is an experience out of the ordinary that they take pride in showing others.
Montalto is set within nature’s gift of an amphitheater with distant view lines to the sea. Spring-fed streams connect four natural lakes that extend to wetlands, home to native flora and fauna. 1500 olive trees, 45 acres of vine and 5 acres of herb and vegetable gardens express the bounty of the property. They are the heart of our food and wine experience.
Sit within the fine dining restaurant that brings the outside in, take a relaxed seat in the Piazza surrounded by the bounty of productive gardens or experience private outdoor dining in one of 11 tranquil picnic locations. Go beyond the two cellar door settings to the 360-degree elevated Wine Room showcasing single vineyard and back vintage wine while overlooking the entire estate.
After three to four hours, your lunch experience will see you planning a future visit, that we hope you share with friends.
Wine experiences at Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove
Wine is part of your daily life and surely, you have some fond memories of experiences that involved wine too. Can you share your two favorite/best memories of “Wine & Travel” with Wine Paths’ readers searching for inspiration for their next wine holiday?
In the late 80s we lived in Europe and holidayed in the South of France, often with French friends. A regular routine was the purchase of young and fresh rosé each morning for lunch overlooking the Mediterranean. An afternoon drive down the coast to Italy would see vineyards running to the sea, the inspiration for our own vineyard by the sea when we returned to Australia. This connection of setting, friendship and contentment with regional food and wine remains as important to us today as it was then.
In 2014, my wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago from Pamplona to Santiago. Hundreds of pilgrims with the same purpose and destination gathered in village accommodation every evening. Breaking bread together, sharing stories, cultures mingling from all corners of the globe. This is the place for wine to bind relationships, cross international borders, revive the spirit after a long day and ensure a peaceful slumber -- and not once a bad drop.
Regional, made with love and given freely with generous spirit; never to be forgotten.
John and Wendy Mitchell at Montalto.
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